Disarmament: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and the Role of the Armed Forces in Democratic Society (Mexico City, 19 September 1996)

IV. Executive Branch: C. Armed forces

35. The signing of an agreement on a firm and lasting peace constitutes a fundamental change in relation to the conditions which have prevailed in Guatemala for more than three decades. This change has positive implications for State institutions, and in particular the Guatemalan armed forces. The role of the Guatemalan armed forces is defined as that of defending Guatemala’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; they shall have no other functions assigned to them, and their participation in other fields shall be limited to cooperative activities. The measures laid down in this Agreement ensure that the doctrine, means, resources and deployment of the armed forces are in line with their functions and Guatemala’s development priorities.

Constitutional reforms

36. The Government undertakes to sponsor the following amendments to the Guatemalan Constitution:

(a) Article 244. Constitution, organization and functions of the armed forces. The Guatemalan armed forces are a permanent institution in the service of the nation. They are unique and indivisible, essentially professional, apolitical, loyal and non-deliberative. Their function is to protect the sovereignty of the State and its territorial integrity. They consist of ground, air and naval forces. Their organization is hierarchical and based on the principles of discipline and obedience;

(b) Article 219. Military courts. The military courts shall take cognizance of the crimes and misdemeanours specified in the military code and in the corresponding regulations. Ordinary crimes and misdemeanours committed by military personnel shall be tried and judged by the ordinary courts. No civilian may be judged by military courts;

(c) Article 246. Duties and powers of the President over the armed forces. Replace the first paragraph by the following: "The President of the Republic is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and shall issue his orders through the Minister of Defence, whether he is a civilian or a member of the military".

Legal framework

37. Amendments to the Constituent Act of the armed forces deriving from the amendments to the Guatemalan Constitution, and amendments deriving from the peace agreements, shall be sponsored.

Military doctrine

38. A new military doctrine shall be formulated in accordance with the reforms envisaged in this Agreement. The doctrine shall encompass respect for the Guatemalan Constitution, human rights, the international instruments ratified by Guatemala in the military field, protection of national sovereignty and independence, the territorial integrity of Guatemala and the spirit of the agreements on a firm and lasting peace.

Size and resources

39. The size and resources of the Guatemalan armed forces shall be sufficient to enable them to discharge their function of defending Guatemala’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and shall be commensurate with the country’s economic capabilities.

Educational system

40. The necessary amendments shall continue to be made to the corresponding regulations so that the military education system is consistent, in its philosophical framework, with respect for the Guatemalan Constitution and other laws, with a culture of peace and democratic coexistence, with the doctrine defined in this Agreement, and with national values, the integral development of the individual, knowledge of our national history, respect for human rights and the identity and rights of the indigenous peoples, and the primacy of the individual.

Arms and munitions

41. The Government shall adopt the most appropriate policies for the acquisition of combat weapons and equipment in accordance with the new functions of the armed forces. The operation of the munitions factory shall be taken into account so that it can meet the needs of the civilian public security forces.

Restructuring

42. The public educational, financial, health, commercial, assistance and insurance institutions, installations and offices corresponding to the needs and functions of the Guatemalan armed forces shall operate under the same conditions as other similar not-for-profit institutions. All the graduates of the Adolfo V. Hall institutes shall join Guatemala’s military reserves. The Guatemalan armed forces shall allocate programmes to them for that purpose. The Government shall decide on an appropriate use for the television frequency allocated to the Guatemalan armed forces.

Military and community service

43. The practice of voluntary military recruitment shall be continued, until the Government of Guatemala, on the basis of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, adopts the necessary administrative decisions, and the Guatemalan Congress approves a civil service law, which shall include military service and community service; this law shall entail fulfillment of a duty and a constitutional right, which is neither compulsory nor a violation of human rights, is universal and non-discriminatory, and would reduce the length of service and offer options to citizens.

44. On the basis of these general principles, the Government undertakes to sponsor the above-mentioned law, which shall be drafted on the basis of what has been agreed on and achieved by the joint working group which is currently considering the matter.

VII. Operational Considerations Resulting from the End of the Armed Conflict

Voluntary Civil Defence Committees (CVDC)

61. The Government shall ask the Congress of the Republic to repeal the decree creating CVDCs, effective on the day of the signing of the agreement on a firm and lasting peace. Demobilization and disarming of CVDCs shall take place within 30 days from the repeal of the decree. The CVDCs including those already demobilized, shall no longer have any institutional relationship with the armed forces of Guatemala and shall not be restructured in such a way as to restore that relationship.

Agreement on the Definitive Ceasefire (Oslo, 4 December 1996)

B. Separation of Forces

Concepts

8. Redeployment of Guatemalan armed forces units: withdrawal means the establishment of spaces in which there is no Guatemalan armed forces presence of any kind. These spaces are to ensure safety and logistical support for URNG in order to facilitate verification by the United Nations.

9. Assembly and disarming of URNG members: assembly of URNG members shall take place at the points specified by the parties. Their size shall be determined by the number of URNG members to be assembled and shall be sufficient to allow for temporary residence in adequate conditions.

Disarming of URNG

24. Disarming shall consist of the depositing, registration and handing over to the United Nations of all types of offensive and defensive weapons, munitions, explosives, mines and other supplementary military equipment in the possession of URNG forces, whether in their possession or in minefields or clandestine storage anywhere.

Control of armaments

25. From D+11 to D+42 in URNG assembly points, weapons, munitions and other military equipment shall be deposited in special warehouses designated by the United Nations; combatants, however, shall keep their personal equipment and weapons as long as they remain in those locations.

26. Each warehouse shall have two locks; one key shall be held by the United Nations and the other by the URNG official in charge of each encampment. The United Nations shall periodically check the inventory of each warehouse.

Implementation History

1997

Full Implementation

After gathering at their prescribed assembly points on 24 March, Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) combatants registered and relinquished their armaments to United Nations military observers. After collecting 1,824 weapons and 535,102 munitions, and destroying 1,390 mines and a stockpile of other explosives, the UN military observers certified the disarming of the URNG as complete on 14 May.1

  • 1. “Report of the Secretary-General on the Group of Military Observers Attached to MINUGUA,” United Nations Security Council (S/1997/432), June 4, 1997.
1998

Full Implementation

URNG disarmament was completed in 1997. Nevertheless, the government was also trying to collect illegally owned weapons. 

1999

Full Implementation

URNG disarmament was completed in 1997. Nevertheless, the government was also trying to collect illegally owned weapons. 

2000

Full Implementation

The Arms and Munitions Control Department (DECAM) of the Armed Forces kept track of legally registered weapons circulated among the civilian population. Approximately 150,000 firearms were owned by 60,000 persons—most of them in Guatemala City. An estimated 2,000,000 unregistered weapons were also in circulation—including in the hands of illegal security groups—indicating a major shortfall in DECAM's ability to regulate the possession of weapons in the country.2

  • 2. “Eleventh Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/174), July 26, 2000.
2001

Full Implementation

DECAM reported a 50% increase in the sales of privately owned firearms. Congress had not yet passed the necessary laws to regulate gun ownership to bring the Government into full compliance with the agreements.3

  • 3. “Thirteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/57/336), August 22, 2002.
2002

Full Implementation

While URNG disarmament was successful, regulating weapon ownership remained a challenging task. While a MINUGUA report suggested that much of the equipment possessed by the Armed Forces was deteriorated and obsolete, most of the government’s military spending was allocated to personal remuneration.4 Nevertheless, the government did not come up with the necessary laws to regulate the gun ownership as provided in the accords.

  • 4. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002.
2003

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2006

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.